September 22, 2017 – A common question we receive at GJEP since we came out in support of ballot initiatives 3A and 3B (see www.citizensforSD51.org for info) is: “do businesses really care about K-12 education?” The answer is unequivocally YES. In last Sunday’s Economic Focus, GJEP executive director Kristi Pollard and some of the business leaders in our community explained why a good education is good for all:
“‘Education is at the core of workforce development,’ said Kristi Pollard, executive director for GJEP. ‘If we’re going to have a good, vibrant community, we have to invest in schools.’
No one, from a retiree living on a fixed income to a small business struggling to make payroll and make a profit, jumps for joy at the idea of a tax increase, but GJEP and other supporters of the bond and mill levy want residents to understand that these initiatives and a strong school district impacts everyone.
When GJEP is recruiting business and industries to the Grand Valley, those business leaders take a critical look at the local school district. Most of them don’t look hard enough to see the hardworking administrators or dedicated teachers, they just look at the buildings that need maintenance and the apparent lack of community support for K12 education.
The quality of the K12 educational system also impacts the business community in a variety of ways, but hits especially hard in the area of finding qualified personnel.
‘The main issue that we’re seeing is that it’s problematic for recruitment,’ said Brian Davidson, president of St. Mary’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center. According to Davidson, several highly trained physicians and surgeons have chosen to work elsewhere after visiting the Grand Valley and noting the condition of Grand Valley schools.
‘If you want good doctors and nurses to move here and take care of you,’ Davidson said, ‘They’re going to want their kids taken care of. We have to understand that one thing leads to another.’
Davidson is not bashing the school district, in fact, he’s quick to sing the praises of a district that has scraped by on a shoestring budget for far too long.
‘The curriculum, the teachers, administrators and counselors, they’re wonderful, but they need additional support,’ Davidson said. ‘Even good teachers and administrators can’t make up for the ceiling falling in.’
The school district has spelled out exactly where the money raised in the proposed bond and mill levy would be used, and supporters hope that voters will recognize the needs that have been pushed to the back burner for too many years.
‘Nothing on that list of projects is frivolous,’ Pollard said. ‘We’re not asking for a Lamborghini; we’re asking for an HVAC system.’
Community Hospital has also come out in support of the upcoming bond levy, which it hopes will not only help the hospital recruit well-qualified medical staff members, but will also help train people for future generations.
‘We want to get students though our school system, stay at CMU and come to work at Community Hospital,’ said Chris Thomas, CEO of Community Hospital.
Others in the business community believe it should be a matter of pride to the entire community.
‘Having coached boys for 11 years in lacrosse, including at the high school level, raising two boys here and having two family members in the district, I feel like I can speak on how much the bond and mill levy are needed just to start allowing our kids some semblance of what other communities and schools are achieving in the rest of the state and country,’ said Dr. John Poovey, owner of J.P. Dental and Implant Center.
‘There is no better form of taxation than one that directly impacts our kids’ education. It should come from a sense of community pride that says, yes, we invest in our future,’ Poovey said.”